Throughout 2022/23, the public and political focus on rivers and the issues that affect them has remained at an all-time high. However, as a nation, we now need to accelerate action to deliver projects of the scale and ambition to deliver healthy rivers, tackling both water quality and habitat improvements to reverse the current trend in species decline and failures to reach Good Ecological Status under the Water Framework Directive to benefit our wildlife as well as our communities who enjoy spending time within, on or alongside the Bristol Avon’s watercourses.
The Trust has drawn funds from a diversity of sources during the year enabling it to lead a number of initiatives and partnership projects. Projects have covered a range of activities which have benefitted both the public and the environment. In response to additional funding streams and increasingly tight delivery timelines, the team successfully ramped up their delivery. In doing so, the Trust has made a significant contribution to our goals and left an indelible stamp on the catchment. Among the most notable operational accomplishments are:
- During the winter of 2022/23, the team delivered an ambitious catchment-wide programme of habitat restoration and natural flood management work across several of our sub-management catchments, including the River Marden and Bristol Frome. Riparian woodland planting, wetland creation, leaky dams, wildlife ponds, and river habitat restoration were among the capital activities completed. Collectively, these actions are assisting in increasing our catchment’s resilience to flooding, climate change, and biodiversity loss, and in many cases, improve water quality and provide improved “blue” spaces for people to enjoy.
- The Trust’s work with landowners is expanding and has become an important component of our delivery strategy. The Trust has been involved in a Defra Test & Trial programme in the River Chew catchment, working with farms to be ready for the move to the Environment Land Management scheme. This work included multiple farm workshops, individual farm visits, and the development of programmes to improve the resilience of both our waterways and farm businesses. This work has enabled the creation of nature-based solutions across the landscape, resulting in improved soil health, and cleaner water entering our watercourses within the areas we have worked. Nature-based solutions also help to slow the flow of water, which contributes to greater resilience in the face of climate change.
- Throughout the year, The Trust has worked with the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership to lead development of the Bristol Avon Fish Recovery Strategy which serves as a tool for embedding the value of rivers in decision-making across spatial planning, public health and economic development. This Bristol Avon Fish Recovery Strategy will guide collective action to deliver the partnerships vision and objectives for fish populations in the Bristol Avon catchment – the strategy will be released during the summer of 2023.
- The Trust has been working on an ambitious Freshwater Biodiversity Market that will enable buyers and sellers to enable investment in freshwater biodiversity. This would help fill the current gap in investment to restore river habitats and address barriers to fish passage. The project is developing a process for freshwater biodiversity code that will provide a standard UK metric for enhancement to freshwater biodiversity through the delivery of river restoration techniques.
- The Trust also concluded its Defra Green Recovery Challenge Fund River Chew Re-Connected project which included a sustainable Water Usage project that reached a total of 2,421 people through events, talks, walks, local volunteering, schools’ activities, and monitoring programmes. The project enabled the recruitment of a dedicated River Chew Community Engagement Officer who has been an invaluable resource for this project. The success of this project and the way that Amy has integrated into the BART team has meant that we have continued her contract past the end of this project.
I am immensely proud of what the Trust has accomplished in the past 12 months and I am looking forward to even more fantastic things in 2023/4. Though without the help of our volunteers, donors, and project partners, whose own passion drives the Trust in its mission to conserve and restore our rivers across the Bristol Avon, we would not be able to accomplish any of this. We are so grateful.
The accomplishments of BART from March 2022 to March 2023 are summarised in the infographic below. Thank you very much to our team and amazing volunteers!